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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Players to Watch in Preseason Camp

August 3, 2022

Days Until Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame will start preseason camp on Friday afternoon and it will be a critical three-week stretch for several players looking to make moves up the depth chart. 

Marcus Freeman's first team returns a great deal of experience, so it's certainly not a boom or bust situation for his young players, but steps in the right direction will bode well for everyone. 

Enhance has been the word thrown around by Freeman over the last seven months and these players will have a chance to take Notre Dame's depth to the next level. 

WR Deion Colzie 
Notre Dame needs bodies and production from the boundary receiver and Colzie fits the bill physically. The sophomore was banged up during the spring, which didn't allow him to maximize his development. The 6-foot-4, 207-pounder played last year as a true freshman, but it seems classmate Jayden Thomas benefitted from getting 15 spring practices. 

Thomas' development isn't a negative in this situation as Notre Dame needs both players along with freshman Tobias Merriweather to play significant snaps. That said, August is a big month for Colzie to prove he's ready for a more significant role and carve out a role within Tommy Rees' offense. 

TEs Kevin Bauman and Cane Berrong
Both players suffered major injuries last fall that prevented them from finding any rhythm. Bauman has more experience as he's entering year three in the program and is probably the more consistent blocker entering camp. Berrong is the wild card as he brings the ability to be a weapon in the passing game and considering the depth issues at receiver, the Georgia native could find a role quickly if he's locked in and healthy. 

Notre Dame will play multiple tight ends, but with sophomore Mitchell Evans injured, both players will need to be ready to go on Sept. 3rd - and be ready to be difference makers. 

OL Rocco Spindler 
The sophomore will be a heated competition at guard with Andrew Kristofic and Josh Lugg. Harry Hiestand wants to give All-American Jarrett Patterson a look at guard while Zeke Correll plays center, which means Spindler, Kristofic and Lugg will battle it out for one guard spot. 

Kristofic played quality football over the last half of the 2021 season after settling in at guard, while Lugg has played in 48 career games (20 starts) during his career. Spindler doesn't have the experience of his teammates, but he has the highest ceiling at the position. 

There certainly isn't a rush to get Spindler on the field if he's not ready as there are quality options ahead of him, but Hiestand has shown he's not afraid to play the best player or even have a rotation at guard in past stops at the collegiate level. 

Spindler will need to show his nasty play early and often during camp to solidify his place on the depth chart. 

OL Billy Schrauth 
While starting probably isn't on the table for the freshman offensive lineman, it will be Schrauth's first college reps as he missed the spring with a foot injury. The Wisconsin native was highly touted coming out of high school and a good camp could get him in line to make an appearance on the two deep, but also in line to get some playing time at the end of games. 

DL NaNa Osafo-Mensah 
The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder flashed at times last year as he recorded 13 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Osafo-Mensah is a quality option at strongside end and if he can continue to develop, it will allow Notre Dame to get more creative with Justin Ademilola, who can play either end. 

Notre Dame is already stacked along the defensive line, but there will be injuries at some point and a big camp from the Texas native would be a positive development. 

LBs Prince Kollie and Jordan Botelho 
It seems Kollie is destined for the Will spot, but he'll be sharing time behind Marist Liufau, who could be used in a variety of ways. Botelho has been positionless throughout his career as he's bounced from edge rusher to rover. 

Both have skillsets to play any of the three linebacker spots, which is huge as Notre Dame's linebacking corps was decimated by injuries in 2021. 

Where do they end up in Al Golden's defense? It remains to be seen, but given Golden's NFL background, it wouldn't be a shock to see either or both find roles in sub packages early in the year given their flexibility. 

As for camp, Botelho and Kollie need to show they are ready to go mentally. Both can play sideline-to-sideline with their athleticism and speed, but if they are overthinking, then it minimizes their athletic ability. 

The Young Cornerbacks 
The freshman and sophomore classes are in a heated battle for spots in the two deep behind Cam Hart, Clarence Lewis and TaRiq Bracy. True freshman Jaden Mickey seems to have made a move during the spring, but sophomore Ryan Barnes did some good things too. 

You can name any name in both classes as they all need to have productive preseason camps for their own futures, but also help Notre Dame build much-needed depth at cornerback. 

The Young Safeties 
Ramon Henderson and Xavier Watts flashed last fall and present Notre Dame with intriguing options due to their athleticism and speed. That said, both are new to the safety position and there were growing pains last fall and during the spring. 

It's a similar situation to Botelho and Kollie as both players need to be sharp and confident mentally to maximize their God-given athletic abilities. 

Veterans DJ Brown and Houston Griffith have shown to be quality players over their careers, but they also can't make some of the players Henderson and Watts can make on the back end. The young safeties must show they can handle adjustments, calls, checks and not have mental breakdowns over the next three weeks. 

Sophomore Justin Walters can also be added to this group. The Illinois native made a few nice plays in the Blue-Gold Game, but we haven't seen enough of him to know how big of a move he can make up the depth chart. 

That said, it's an exciting mix of veterans and young talent for Chris O'Leary to mold alongside All-American Brandon Joseph. 

Notre Dame needs to replace both kicker and punter this fall, which might be a larger task than Brian Mason initially thought as there was a lack of consistency in the kicking game this spring. 

The good news is Notre Dame added two punters since the conclusion of spring ball as Harvard grad transfer Jon Sot and freshman Bryce McFerson arrived in June. Sot has the experience, while McFerson is the highly ranked recruit that will look to impress this month. 

When it comes to the kicking game, Arkansas State grad transfer Blake Grupe will be solid inside 40 yards, while there is still some unknown about sophomore Joshua Bryan. 

Bryan has a huge leg, but he'll need to show accuracy to beat out Grupe for full-time duties. It almost seems like the best option heading into camp could be for Grupe to kick inside 40 and Bryan outside 40. Both will need to show growth and consistency over the next three weeks.  

It's hard to predict the returners as we usually don't see much of that during our viewings. 

And this year, it will likely be a little more difficult to project as Notre Dame is so thin at skill position spots. 

Sophomore receiver Lorenzo Styles is dynamic with the ball, but can Notre Dame afford him taking a few more shots if he's the returner? Braden Lenzy and Chris Tyree are in the same boat. 

Brandon Joseph has returned punts before, but that also seems like somewhat of an unnecessary risk in most games. 

Now, for big games like Clemson, Ohio State and USC, all hands on deck, but Notre Dame will likely need to find a few guys who can handle that role in other games. Jaden Mickey, Jayden Bellamy and Gi'Bran Payne seem like names to potentially watch.

Notre Dame and anyone else will want the best players returning kicks and you can’t play scared of injuries, but until Logan Diggs returns to give a little more depth, it seems smart not to put Tyree in those situations against Marshall or Cal. 

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